Schools should open in holidays to help poor families, says report

Web hungry couple food poverty

​Report shows how families with money problems struggle during the school holidays - and urges schools to open to help out.

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23rd December 2015 by Graham Martin 1 Comment

While many parents look forward to the school holidays, new research shows they can place huge strain on families already struggling through poverty.

A study by the Child Family Action Group in Scotland (CPAG) reveals the extra pressures some mums and dads feel when schools close.

With the Christmas holidays now underway, parents say they feel guilty when they can’t afford to provide the same holiday experiences, toys, trips and memories as their peers.

The study concluded that schools should be open at the weekend to help families out.

One parent described how “You kind of feel disappointed with yourself because you are not meeting up with their needs. It’s not that we don’t want to go out but when we do all these things it has to come down to money.

“You are living just to survive not to actually live a valued life. You just have to live through each day and thank god it’s one less. You feel like, what a shame.”

The pressures low income families face are magnified during school holidays

Another added “It’s worse at Christmas when it’s cold and I have to put more money in my gas to heat my house. When the kids are in school I don’t use my heating and I save it for them coming home to a warm house and getting up with heat in the mornings.” 

Parents say that too often the extra costs of feeding children when free school lunches are no longer available puts real strain on already overstretched family finances.

Lack of affordable childcare also leads some parents to reduce working hours, putting further pressure on already limited incomes.

Many families report borrowing money during holidays to pay for the additional costs of heating, clothing as well as uniform for the next school term.

The research was commissioned by Glasgow Life, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and the Glasgow Centre for Population Health to inform a working group tasked with improving holiday provision for Glasgow families.=

A series of recommendations for action are made,  including using dormant school facilities to provide holiday activities and providing free, healthy lunches.

This chimes in with a charity pilot project in Ibrox and Irvine, revealed recently by TFN, which will next year see schools opening at weekends and holidays to feed families in need.

John Dickie, director of CPAG, said: “The pressures low income families face are magnified during school holidays. It’s harder for parents to juggle work and childcare and it’s harder to feed, clothe and keep children warm, never mind give them the kind of holiday experience better off families take for granted.

“We are delighted that Glasgow Life and its partners are looking at how to improve existing highly valued holiday and childcare provision in the city, but this report must now be essential reading across Scotland for every level of government and for all those providing services to families”. 

6th January 2016 by Ian Davidson

A welcome and long overdue initiative. School holidays are too long anyway for most families especially the summer hols. For children living in poverty and/or troubled families, long holidays are a threat to their material & emotional well-being. This is a topic on which the Scottish Government can do more so hopefully we will see further practical proposals for action in 2016!